Monday, November 28, 2011


(Boylston, MA)—Governor Deval Patrick today announced $7.4 million in grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF) to support building projects for nonprofit arts, heritage, and science organizations across the Commonwealth.

The new CFF investment will support repairs, improvements, and expansions for 54 cultural organizations that plan to invest nearly $275 million in their projects. Grants will range from $14,000 to $250,000. A full list of new grants can be found online.

“These grants will create new jobs in arts, culture, and tourism -- three pillars of our state’s creative economy,” said Governor Patrick. “These investments will support our cultural organizations and allow them to serve the public with quality programs that will enrich our communities for generations to come.”

CFF fuels a nonprofit creative sector that employs 27,100 people, spends $2.1 billion annually, and generates another $2.5 billion of economic activity across Massachusetts, according to a recent study by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Organizations that received past CFF grants are spending more than $800 million on their building projects, and providing more than 11,000 building jobs, including architects, engineers, contractors, and construction workers. They also plan to add more than 1,150 new permanent jobs after their capital projects are complete.

CFF grants have also helped restore many of our nation’s most historic landmarks and treasures, which in turn have brought more cultural tourists to Massachusetts. In 2008 and 2009, more than 14 million people visited organizations receiving these grants; nearly one third came from out-of-state.

State Senator Stephen Brewer of Barre spoke about the value of CFF investments for one of those organizations in his Central Mass. district. “Old Sturbridge Village has been a staple in the community for many years and is a driving force for visitors to the area,” said Brewer, who chairs the Senate Ways & Means Committee. “I applaud the Village for its hard work and the many improvements they have already made to make the visitor experience one to remember. The infrastructure improvements that will be made possible by this grant will ensure that the buildings, roads, and structures here will be preserved for generations of visitors to come.”

“We thank the Governor for his commitment to investing in our nonprofit cultural sector through CFF,” said Anita Walker, MCC Executive Director. “We are also grateful to Senator Brewer and his colleagues in the Legislature for providing the authority for these investments. Support for this program is strong because it is real economic stimulus for a sector that adds so much to our quality of life.”

“From Cape Cod to the Berkshires, investing in the Commonwealth’s cultural institutions makes economic sense,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “Working to maintain and improve these facilities will continue to draw visitors to Massachusetts and provide creative outlets and activities for residents. I thank Governor Patrick and the Legislature for their support of this program; MassDevelopment is pleased to partner with the Cultural Council on issuing these grants.”

About MCC
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is a state agency supporting the arts, humanities, and sciences to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts and its communities. The MCC pursues this mission through of grants, services, and advocacy for nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists. Learn more at

About MassDevelopment
MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development authority, works with businesses, nonprofits, and local, state, and federal officials and agencies to create jobs, increase the number of housing units, eliminate blight, and address the overarching challenges that limit economic growth, such as transportation, energy, and other infrastructure deficiencies. Learn more at

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tourism U

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism was in Northampton at the Hotel Northampton and presented Tourism U. Tourism U is a series of free presentation hosted around the state for the travel and tourism industry to increase its awareness of the programs that MOTT offers and encourage industry participation.

About 30 participants were in attendance for both or part of the two sessions offered by MOTT. The first, led by Betsy Larkin, MOTT's senior manager of international marketing, was a presentation on MOTT's international programs and an introduction to the agency's international partners. They included Julie Greenhill, Travel & Tourism Marketing, Ltd. (MOTT’s UK Travel Trade Rep) Doerte Buss, Buss Consulting (MOTT’s German Travel Trade & Press Rep) Sue Norrington-Davies, Managing Director, Discover New England. It was great for our area industry folks to learn just what our state tourism agency is doing on their behalf and how they can better get involved with MOTT and international programs. You can see some of the presentations online here.

The second presentation was by Lisa Strout, the director of the Massachusetts Film Office, who took the afternoon portion of the program. Lisa formerly led the New Mexico film office before coming to Massachusetts. It's clear the Commonwealth will have a strong champion in Lisa to bring more ever more film opportunities, in addition to helping MOTT create yet another tourism niche in film tourism. The Daily Hampshire Gazette had a below the fold cover story on Lisa's presentation in today's paper (subscription required).

I was encouraged to see many of our Hampshire RTC partners at the meeting. There certainly is great excitement around our increased tourism presence, which bodes well for future success.

Monday, October 17, 2011

High hopes for tourism

originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette (October 10, 2011)

By Tony Maroulis and Suzanne Beck

On Sept. 16, the newly formed Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council hosted an event at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Betsy Wall, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, was on hand to meet the region's hospitality and tourism industry and to announce the new council's first competitive grant award of $232,387 for the promotion of Hampshire County.

This exciting day for tourism in the upper Valley was made possible by the efforts of state Sen. Stan Rosenberg. In August 2010, Rosenberg successfully inserted a provision to create the Hampshire County RTC in Gov. Deval Patrick's economic development bill.

Over the past two decades, the senator has been a tireless promoter of the region's cultural tourism and attractions. Those of us in the business of marketing Hampshire County are excited for this moment and hope it will galvanize the industry and create real economic impact for our region. We thank Stan for his successful efforts on our behalf.

In the last fiscal year, the statewide Regional Tourism Council budget appropriation was increased to $6 million, up $3.5 million from the previous year. The commonwealth's increased investment in tourism is a wise move. Tourism marketing is one of the only state expenditures that generate revenue for state and local government. Through hotel and motel taxes and increased sales taxes, the visitor and tourism industry creates revenue to help those in need.

In the midst of the recession in 2009, the industry brought in over $900 million in revenue to the commonwealth. That same, regional tourism marketing drew millions of tourists who spent $14.4 billion - including $1.9 billion from international visitors - in Massachusetts.

And that was a year in which regional tourism promotion was cut 72 percent.

While the increased investment in tourism is heartening, the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council is now one of 16 agencies in the commonwealth, so the pie is ever more divided.

Both Rosenberg and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism are urging the new council to collaborate with the Pioneer Valley's other two tourism bureaus - the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. We hope to work smarter and more cooperatively than ever before to promote the entire region.

Recent data collected of tourist behavior to the Valley clearly demonstrates that visitors do not distinguish between county lines. Visitors staying in Hadley may very well visit Yankee Candle and the Basketball Hall of Fame while here for a lacrosse tournament at the University of Massachusetts. Families making a trip to Six Flags and staying in Springfield may very well visit the Eric Carle museum or Magic Wings in Deerfield during their stay.

Going forward, the work of the new council will include joint projects that we have committed to with our partners in Hampden and Franklin counties. But it will also include ideas and projects brought forth by our industry partners, many of whom have volunteered to be active on the council's board.

This group will have fiduciary oversight over grant activities and the responsibility that comes with that, including representing all 20 towns and cities in Hampshire County.

We look forward to the work of the next year, which is really the first truly cooperative regional project taken on by the Hampshire County Chambers.

It is our hope that this work will lead to more exposure and economic impact for our region.

Tony Maroulis is executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. Suzanne Beck is executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce.

Lots and lots of cultural news from this weekend

Yesterday, while lunching at Amherst College after the inauguration ceremony of Carolyn "Biddy" Martin as the 19th Amherst College president, Amherst Select Board member Jim Wald asked me if I was still writing the Cultural Mass blog. I admitted, as I have more than a few times, I've not been posting much. But it's not for a lack of things to write about. It's a time management thing . . . But I better not talk about that too much.

Anyway, what's kind of interesting, is that the Daily Hampshire Gazette had a great editorial on the arts in the Valley today, and I had been thinking about writing on the same topic. After all, the Cultural Mass concept as a brand identity for Hampshire County, even before the recent creation of the Regional Tourism Council, came about largely due to the the sometimes overwhelming number events in an area of just over 200,000 residents. Adding that to the population of Hampden and Franklin counties and we're still at a population of only 775,000 or so. And yet, not only do we attract some of the greatest talent into our area for performances and exhibitions, we foster and create a whole lot of incredible work here, too.

There's talent in this Valley. Wicked good talent.

Where art knows no season was the title of today's editorial in the Gazette. Here's the lede and a few paragraphs as an excerpt.

Here in the Pioneer Valley, we're lucky to live in the midst of communities of artists who create and share their work at an astounding rate.

Pick a day, any day, and you'll find offerings in music - both classical and contemporary, exhibits of art in every medium, theater, dance, readings by authors, and films of the Hollywood and independent varieties.

It's no secret that the Valley has long been an artist's dreamscape, with its the plethora of art lovers and eager audiences, and endless opportunities to exhibit and perform. Thanks in part to the draw of the Five Colleges, local arts happenings expand even more in the fall, becoming as ubiquitous as falling leaves and political lawn signs.

Today, even with tough funding realities for artists and tighter pocketbooks for audiences, the local arts scene seems as vibrant as it was back in 2000, when Northampton was named "The Best Small Arts Town in America." Indeed, since then, the arts in other area communities have grown at such a rate that many of those towns could, no doubt, now give Northampton a run for its money in that regard.

The whole piece can be read here (Subscription required).

Just a few little shout-outs to what I had seen this weekend . . .

I do a little side gig as a critic for Artscope magazine, and while I haven't written for them in a while, I was assigned to cover an amazing exhibition of encaustic artists at the UMass Hampden Gallery. Shifting, curated by Amherst artist Sue Katz brought together 5 talented encaustic specialists in an exhibition that shifted from moody to exuberant. It's a terrific little show, and one of my favorite things this year. I love Sue Katz's work and the sense of fun that comes through in her constructs. It's really a must see.

Part of the splendid Idea Mill conference on Friday at Open Square in Holyoke was a scheduled art tour, and I checked out Matt Mitchell's haunting exhibition 100 Faces of War at the Canal Gallery. The exhibition is up through October. The faces of veterans - young and mature - and their moving first person accounts are heartbreaking, and Mitchell's sensitive treatment of the subject matter makes for the most moving anti-war statement that I've seen in some time. As for Idea Mill, I'll be writing more about that at the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce blog.

And finally, it's really too bad that the Brick + Mortar festival is only two days. Not only was the exhibition amazing, but the whole show was a love poem to Greenfield. Video art is challenging - one viewer I saw mentioned that in video art everything is ominous and scary, and that qualifies it as a legitimate form. She was being facetious. I happened to love this exhibition, except for the fact I had my two children in tow and not enough time to see everything. Hampshire College professor and Amherst resident Christoph Cox was curator of the fesitival, which featured an incredible sonic installation by Daniel Warner called Freeze-Frame. I sometimes struggle with video art myself, but this show was impeccably put together, with the one thread being sound and rhythm, which is Cox's thing, that bound and brought this show together. Even the ominous and scary video work had that quality and it freaked my kids out besides.

So, in all, a great weekend and the Gazette's piece was dead on. I'm hoping that I'll be able to provide a semi-regular recap of cool things around the Valley that I have seen. For my two or three readers out there . . . if you've got things to report, let me know. Send your reviews or ideas or feedback to me at

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recent Opinion on the Formation of the Hampshire County RTC

Thanks to Sen. Rosenberg and the efforts of many folks over the past two decades, the Hampshire County RTC is finally a reality. For those of us in the business of promoting Hampshire County, we're excited to galvanize the industry and create real economic impact for our region.

For those of you who missed the most recent Amherst Bulletin or are not in the subscription area, here are two recent pieces about the new Hampshire County RTC.

The first is from the Daily Hampshire Gazette Editorial staff: "A needed push on area tourism," reprinted in the Amherst Bulletin.

The second piece, also run last Friday, was from my monthly The Business of Amherst column: "Ready to roll on area tourism."
The title is courtesy of Gazette editor Larry Parnass, I think.

Amherst Ballet

Forgive some local boosterism on a site where regionalism abounds. Amherst Ballet, our esteemed company founded in 1971, has recently received a Gold Star award from the Mass Cultural Council.

This from an email from Jane Wald, Executive Director of The Emily Dickinson Museum, and my former boss:

Just so you can see what a terrific impact this is having for Amherst, take a look at this opening page for Local Cultural Councils on the MCC website.

I suggest you do!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Coverage of the new Hampshire County RTC

It has been some time since we've blogged in this space, but that's not for a lack of activity. I'll have more postings in the coming days and weeks, but, in brief, the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council was publicly launched in the past few weeks. Here's a little from the Gazette on the happening:

Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, MA)

March 28, 2011
Section: Local News

Towns, institutions team up to sell county


AMHERST - Like the rest of the Pioneer Valley, Hampshire County has a lot going for it: arts, culture, agriculture, hiking, biking, dining choices, and interesting people. A newly-formed tourism council aims to market those strengths. Just how to get the most from this council, known as the Hampshire County Tourism and Visitors Bureau, is the challenge confronting representatives of the local chambers of commerce in Amherst, Northampton and Easthampton who are taking the lead on the project.

State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, who did the legwork in Boston to create the council, said he has been hearing from constituents for close to 25 years about the need to have one in the county.

"This is an opportunity to start thinking regionally," said Suzanne Beck, executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce.

She was one of about 75 people from the county's business community, including owners of hotels and restaurants, people affiliated with art museums and the University of Massachusetts, as well as local town officials, who gathered Friday to brainstorm how to market the county. The forum convened at the Campus Center Hotel at the University of Massachusetts.

"This is about finding those connections that the visitor is struggling to find," said Beck.

Tony Maroulis, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, noted that marketing the region as one entity is critical to getting visitors to take multiple trips to the county.

"The tourism council opens up much larger opportunities as a whole if we're speaking with one voice and working together this way," Maroulis said.

He said local efforts are supplemented and enhanced through regional promotion. For every dollar of money invested in promoting tourism, he said, there is an estimated $40 in revenue returned.

The Connecticut River, the Norwottuck Rail Trail, the numerous farms and locally grown food, the array of restaurants and the culture that includes movies, theater and concerts would be marketed to visitors.

Beck suggested that Hampshire County has strong links to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered travel market and to the so-called "foodie" market that could be strengthened more. Currently, there is only a minimal amount of the marketing share because it is difficult to get anyone's attention when chambers act in isolation.

"With so much fragmentation there's a lot of inefficiency," Beck said. "We're presenting a confusing picture to the traveler."

For the rest of the article, click here